Reality is the playground of the unimaginative
Home Of Swords, Sorcery, Superheroes, Sci-fi, Star Stuff, Silliness, Scares, and the Supernatural

Sunday, 31 May 2015

Book Of The Month: The League Of Regrettable Superheroes

The chances are, if you're reading HeroPress, you have a more than passing interest in comic book superheroes. You probably also have a slightly quirky sense of humour and an appreciation of the absurd.

All this makes The League of Regrettable Superheroes: Half-Baked Heroes From Comic Book History, by Jon Morris, the perfect reading material for you.

Due to be published in the UK on Tuesday (June 2), the book grew out of Jon's long-running blog, Gone & Forgotten, that has been cataloguing failed superheroes, oddballs and freaks from the pages of eight decades of comics.

A gorgeously illustrated, 250-page hardback, overflowing with original comic book art, every hero profiled in this "top 100 rundown" earns at least a double-page spread.

The text details the character's 'real world' origins, as well as his 'in-universe' story, delivered in a style that is both self-deprecating and celebratory.

From the camp to the crass, the League includes the ridiculous and the well-intentioned, as well as embracing short-lived characters that have tried to ride the coattails of certain fads or gimmicks.

Broken down into three distinct comic book ages - The Golden Age (1938-1949); The Silver Age (1950 - 1969); and The Modern Age (1970 - present) - the book is a mix of characters that are well-known to comic book readers (such as Fantomah, B'wana Beast, Dial H for Hero, Legion of Super-Pets, Man-Wolf, ROM and Squirrel Girl) and the truly obscure (e.g. the Captain Marvel who isn't the one you're thinking of, Music Master, Doctor Hormone, Gunmaster, The Ferret, The Straw Man, Dynamite Thor, Atoman etc).

Initially I wasn't sure about the inclusion of characters like Squirrel Girl and Thunderbunny that were deliberately written as quirky - as opposed to those that were written straight but turned out, to modern sensibilities at least, to be a bit strange.

But then this book isn't aimed at just geeky comic book readers, but also at those who are only recently embracing the concept of superheroes thanks to the avalanche of caped and costumed characters parading across the big and small screen these days.

A great book for dipping in to, rather than necessarily ploughing through from start to finish.

The League of Regrettable Superheroes is ideal bedtime (or toilet) reading material, that can be opened at a random page whenever you have a moment and want to lose yourself in some truly bizarre superheroic exploits.

That Darn Cat Again...

Saturday, 30 May 2015

Ash Vs Evil Dead Gets Groovy...

[RPG] End Times And New Beginnings...

When I took over running our Chronicles Of Cidri campaign, I brazenly declared that this would be an open-ended campaign that would run-and-run (taking my inspiration from the classic campaigns of the old school, such as Tekumel, Arduin, Greyhawk etc).

Recent health issues have given me cause to rethink this (which also meant I was unable to run this month's scheduled Tuesday Knights' session) and I have now set an end date to the campaign... November 2016, the month of my 50th birthday!

That doesn't mean I shall be steering matters towards a definite grand finale that month, the players still have control over where the campaign goes (I just throw out adventures to fill their time), but all being well, as that date approaches I'll be able to ensure that the campaign doesn't end mid-battle!

Then, after my 50th birthday celebrations (whatever form they end up taking), I'll be looking at starting a new campaign.

Of course, depending on how our current Heroes & Other Worlds campaign pans out, the new campaign could easily be a continuation of the old campaign!

On the other hand, I'm entertaining the thought of something very different, more contemporary or sci-fi, using one of my three favourite rules engines, either:
  • Cinematic Unisystem, as found in Buffy, Angel, Army of Darkness etc; 
  • Vortex, as found in Doctor Who: Adventures In Time & Space and Primeval; or
  • Ubiquity, as found in Hollow Earth Expedition, Space: 1889 and Leagues of Adventure)

New edition coming soon...

London Brawling...

Thanks to Al Bruno III to pointing this short film, by Freddie Wong, out to me.

Friday, 29 May 2015

Agents Of S.H.I.E.L.D.: Scars

It's a week since The Dirty Half Dozen and in that time the events of Avengers: Age Of Ultron have gone down, the S.H.I.E.L.D. helicarrier (the 'Theta Protocol') is back in play and Fury is 'alive again'.

Tensions have eased slightly between the competing S.H.I.E.L.D. factions and an arrangement has been reached where Coulson will remain The Director, advised by a board made up of Gonzales and his people.

In the Inhuman camp, Raina has had a vision of a Kree artifact that could spell doom for her people, but when she and teleporter Gordon go to investigate it turns out to be the mystery object that Gonzales is concealing in the hold of his ship.

Having discovered the existence of The Inhumans, Phil negotiates - through Skye - a sit-down with Jiaying to negotiate a way forward for the two parties, where S.H.I.E.L.D. can monitor the Inhumans and get them on to its Index.

However, Coulson's suggestion that he chair the meeting is overruled - because of his closeness to Skye - and Gonzales leads the S.H.I.E.L.D. delegation in his place.

Raina tries to manipulate Jaiying into not dealing with S.H.I.E.L.D., but Skye's mum has her own ideas and the meeting doesn't go exactly according to Gonzales' plan.

A brilliant mix of spy-fi, superhuman shenanigans, alien tech and general comic book goodness, Scars - referring primarily to the injuries that both Gonzales and Jaiying had suffered at the hands of Hydra - was one of the strongest episodes of this season, and certainly bodes well for the two-hour finale (let's hope Channel 4 lets us see it as a two-hour episode and doesn't hack it into two parts).

My only reservation, which I see as quite a big logistical plot hole, involved Bobbi's sub-plot towards the end of the episode.

Given that S.H.I.E.L.D. is a regimented, military, organisation, I fail to see how she could not have realised that Agent May was actually piloting two quinjets at the same time.

If May had been tied up in a cupboard back at base (yeah, I know that's hard to believe as well), and the faux May was the only Agent May in the operation, I would have found the deception being played on Bobbi more credible, but as it was, it just didn't ring true.

Surely, at some point, someone would have spotted a second Agent May as the quinjets were loading up?

Also, when Gonzales' team arrived at Afterlife, the Inhumans refuge, nobody mentioned the fact that they had lost one of their quinjets en route!

Next Time:

Fleamarket Friday: Kickstart A New Star Trek Technical Manual...

Following on from his successful Kickstarter last year novelising Star Trek's Four Years War, author Stephen Fender has now launched a crowdfunding campaign to produce a "technical manual" to accompany his original saga.

On the campaign's Kickstarter page, he explains:
"In brief, The Four Years War was a protracted conflict between the United Federation of Planets and the Klingon Empire, which took place roughly ten years prior to the events depicted in Star Trek: The Original Series.
Taking all available data I could find, I wrote four complete novels, each one depicting a year of the war, with each composed of interwoven short stories of those serving on the front lines of the conflict.
Throughout the course my writing, I compiled a massive amount of statistics, diagrams, illustrations, and much more. Some were created by me, while others were supplied to me. With the permission of those artists, and at the request of fans of the Four Years War, I decided to create a technical manual that would enhance the material I'd already committed to the novels."
The campaign, which is running until July 27, hit its funding goal within 48 hours of launching, so the book is going to happen.

Check out its page for investor incentives, available perks and a better idea of what the book will contain.

Kung Fury - Full Movie...

Another special treat for loyal HeroPress readers, on the back of Predator: Dark Ages, another short film I've helped Kickstart, over-the-top, '80s action-comedy: Kung Fury.

Serving Up Season Three Of Hannibal...

Torn From The Headlines: Who Doesn't Love Swords?

Every fantasy roleplayer loves swords, right? Especially of the magical and mystical kind.

Listverse recently published details of over ten 'mysterious' blades from real world mythology and legend that should inspire gamers and games masters... whatever genre they are diving into.

Meanwhile Mental Floss has its own, equally-inspirational, list of 10 of history's "most terrifying" swords, which looks at weapon designs from around the globe.

Wednesday, 27 May 2015

The Clangers Are Coming Back!!!

Supernatural: King Of The Damned

After the embarrassment that was last week's episode, Supernatural turned things around with King Of The Damned, an excellent, character-led, episode that encapsulated everything that is great about this long-running show.

On one hand, we had the angelic civil war, where the rebel faction have chosen Castiel as their "commander" and on the other we have the turmoil of Abaddon's scheming to unseat Crowley as the King Of Hell.

When Castiel's people capture a chatty angel claiming to be a member of Metatron's elite, Cas turns to the Winchesters to see what they can discover from the prisoner about his enemy's plans.

Meanwhile Abaddon has traveled back to 18th Century Scotland to kidnap Gavin MacLeod (Theo Devaney), Crowley's son, as a way to exploit the King Of Hell's increasing humanity.

She persuades Crowley that the real problem is the Winchesters and the First Blade, suggesting they team up to kill the brothers and dispose of the blade before getting down to the thorny issue of who should actually rule Hell.

Entirely driven by the personalities involved, King Of The Damned propelled the season's main story arc forward as well as letting the characters grow.

Lies, deceit and trickery abound. Highlights in this fantastic episode include the Winchesters' 'interrogation' of the captured angel, the interaction between Crowley and his son and Dean's throw-down with Abaddon.

As we head towards the season finale in a couple of weeks, the angelic civil war is coming to a head and Sam is becoming increasingly worried about the influence that the First Blade and The Mark of Cain is having on Dean.

Next Time:

Welcome To Riverdale - Episode Twenty-Nine...

Wonder Woman Wednesday (Twofer)

Happy 93rd Birthday, Sir Christopher Lee - God Of Geekdom!

Tuesday, 26 May 2015

Predator: Dark Ages...

As a special treat for loyal HeroPress readers, here's the short Kickstarter-funded fan film Predator: Dark Ages, written and directed by James Bushe and starring Adrian Bouchet, Amed Hashimi, Sabine Crossen, Ben Lloyd-Holmes, Jon Campling, Joe Egan and Philip Lane.

Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.: The Dirty Half Dozen

After months apart, Coulson's team is finally all back together - even Agent Ward is along for the ride - as Phil leads his team on a daring rescue mission to Hydra's Arctic base, where Deathlok and Skye's friend Lincoln are being held prisoner.

The Dirty Half Dozen was a great episode of Agents Of S.H.I.E.L.D., especially the finally 20 minutes or so, when we were treated not only to an insight into the dark arc that Jemma Simmons' character has gone on since her first appearance but the base attack itself.

The highlight of the assault was, of course, the much-discussed and highly praised single-shot scene of Skye taking down a number of Hydra agents as she made her way to Lincoln's room. It certainly stands up there with the corridor fight in Daredevil as a magnificently choreographed action sequence.

While I've always been opposed to the idea of Ward finding any kind of redemption - some betrayals you shouldn't be allowed to come back from - I felt his return to the team, albeit briefly, was handled really well.

As is often the case in 'superhero' TV shows, the episode's strongest moments came in its final scenes - hooking us in for next time and, here, establishing links to Avengers: Age Of Ultron. It will be interesting to see where this goes as the show heads towards its season finale in a few weeks.

Meanwhile, at the Inhuman refuge known as 'Afterlife', Jiaying patches things up with Cal while trying to get to grips with Raina's new-found gift of prophecy.

Unfortunately, compared to the action of the main plot thread this week, the Inhuman elements of The Dirty Half Dozen felt a bit wishy-washy (barring Cal's summation of Raina's personality).

Next Time:

Next Time On Game Of Thrones...

Friday, 22 May 2015

A Taste Of Hannibal, Season Three...

Alice's First Birthday!

Happy barkday, Alice!

Our puppy is growing up. Alice is one year old today. There will be celebrations later when 'granny and granddad' (ie. Rachel's mum and dad) come round, we order in some Chinese takeaway and get down to the serious matter of opening puppy presents.

It's hard to believe that a year ago today, Rachel and I didn't even know about Alice and now  we can't imagine our lives without her.

For those interested in such things, but aren't already aware, you can see what Alice has been up to via her Facebook page, otherwise enjoy this four-and-a-half-minute film that Rachel put together marking Alice's first year:

Thursday, 21 May 2015

What's Mine Is Chores...

Chicken and bean cassoulet with chorizo, cooked by my own fair hand. To quote Rachel, by way of explanation: "A stroke has all sorts of repercussions that aren't immediately obvious. Tonight Tim managed to follow a recipe for the first time in 10 years and it was delicious."

Those paying attention may have noticed a dip in HeroPress post regularity of late, and a definite decline in fresh content (as opposed to picture posts and film clips).

This is because I've been stepping away from the keyboard to smell the roses, appreciating my life and (finally) starting to pull my weight around the home.

It's ten years since my aneurism and stroke and, while it's very unlikely I'll ever be fit enough to return to work, it's probably time I started to do my share of the household chores.

Thanks to encouragement from my cognitive behavioral therapist (and Rachel, of course), I have begun a programme of activities, to both help Rachel out (doing more cooking, cleaning etc) and to get me out of the house more - visiting friends etc

Part of this involves me doing more cooking and, as evidenced by the picture above, I've cooked my first meal from a recipe in a decade! I've also made a couple of cottage pies and the usual sausage and bacon fare.

I'm even considering signing up for a beginners cookery course at the adult education centre!

I'm also looking after Alice at least two days a week (she normally goes to work with Rachel as she has become the company's 'official' morale-boosting office dog).

Although both my therapist and Rachel are keen that I continue blogging, they believe it helps keep my brain active, I'm finding that with these 'chores' - most of which couldn't be described as arduous, but are surprisingly satisfying - I'm not driven to spend so much time glued to my keyboard.

All this schedule rejigging is even allowing me time to watch TV and DVDs simply for 'enjoyment', without the nagging sense of obligation that I should be composing some witty review for HeroPress to justify my time.

So, there you have it: HeroPress lives, but in tandem with an increasing 'real life' away from the computer.

I have plans and schemes for the blog, to keep it fresh, but for the moment I'm enjoying the new make-up of my daily life... which will mean fewer long posts like this for a while!

Wednesday, 20 May 2015

Supernatural: Bloodlines

Is Bloodlines the worst episode of Supernatural to date? Quite possibility.

Penned as a backdoor pilot to a spin-off series that (unsurprisingly on the strength of this episode) never took off, Bloodlines commits the cardinal sin of reducing Supernatural's protagonists (the Winchesters) to bumbling, secondary characters in their own show.

The whole episode feels off, from the set-up to the music (usually such a key element of the Supernatural oeuvre).

It is revealed that, unbeknownst to everyone in the Hunting community (yeah, right), Chicago is secretly run by five "monster families" (shapeshifters, djinn, werewolves etc) who are locked into an uneasy peace ... to help conceal their existence from mortals.

However, a cloaked freak with a silver-bladed Freddy Kruegar glove is determined to provoke a war for his own ends.

A random innocent, Ennis Ross (Lucien Laviscount), the son of a dead cop, gets pulled into this mess when his girlfriend is accidentally killed during an attack on a 'monster club' by the dude with the knife-glove.

It's at this point the Winchesters show up, investigating the death, but the episode stays focused on Ennis and a corny Romeo & Juliet romance between a shifter and a werewolf.

Bloodlines groans under the weight of cheesy dialogue and clichéd set-pieces, while the Winchesters miss all the action beats (these are left to the characters I presume were meant to star in the show that never appeared) and have to be spoon-fed ideas by the supporting cast.

The whole thing reminded me of (what little) I know of The Originals - the successful Vampire Diaries spin-off - and I couldn't help but think that someone involved with Supernatural had seen the same adverts for The Originals that I have and declared: "We should do our own version of that."

Unfortunately, from its shoddy treatment of the Winchesters, through the surfeit of bland characters, to the appalling dialogue and corny plot, Bloodlines turned out to be a stinker of the highest order and a major insult to loyal fans of the show who'd tuned in for their weekly dose of Supernatural goodness.

I also suspect we'll never hear of these 'monster family' mobsters again...

Next Time:

Welcome To Riverdale: Everybody Loves Archie...

Retro Comic Book Cover Gallery...

Wonder Woman Wednesday (Twofer)

Tuesday, 19 May 2015

Next Time On Game Of Thrones...

And here's a little behind-the-scenes look at House of Black and White, and the Hall of Faces:

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